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Minority Firms Slam California High-Speed Rail Contracts

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — A group of minority business owners demanded Wednesday that the federal government withhold more than $3 billion in funding for California’s bullet train project while they investigate claims of unfair contracting practices by high-speed rail officials.

Associated Professionals and Contractors filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation alleging that small firms, many of which are owned by minorities, were largely excluded in the bidding process for design and engineering contracts worth millions of dollars.

The complaint alleged that of 134 firms that benefited from lucrative contracts awarded by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, only about a dozen are minority-owned. It claims that the authority’s “restrictive procurement system and a laissez-faire attitude” has funneled nearly all contracting dollars to large firms instead of small firms.

The group claims such practices violate civil rights law.

Fred Jordan, president of an engineering and construction management firm who also heads the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce, said the authority has ignored the pleas of minority business owners.

“It just doesn’t seem to be their priority or concern that all qualified businesses in this state have an opportunity to participate,” he said.

The authority said it has complied with the law.

“Our contracts are awarded in a very public and transparent manner by our board, in public meetings,” Valerie Martinez, the authority’s small business liaison said.

A transportation department spokesman said he couldn’t comment because he hadn’t seen the complaint.

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